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Baseline Cover Issue 12


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Cover: French Antique, for 1, 2 or 3 colours from the St. Bride’s Library collection


Editorial Editorial team

Amidst a general concern for typographical standards the desktop typographer is being invited, with increasing frequency and volume, to remember his type heritage.

Where better to explore it than at St Bride’s London? A storehouse of treasures awaits the typophile, unique in its scope although until now accessible to too few.

Baseline spends most of this issue looking back: to Dutch design of the 20’s, at the career of the late Berthold Wolpe, to the staggering work of Will Eisner, to Ralph Steadman’s favourite bits of the past, even to the holiday lights of Blackpool which also seems to reflect a bygone style of recreation.

Nostalgia with quality, but what about the present? Well, the Black Sparrow Press is a refreshing success story, reflecting a continuing interest in typographic individuality. But we struggled in this issue to find good new work, which would fill a few spreads. Perhaps our net isn’t yet cast wide enough or perhaps designers are all out there learning the new technology and too busy to innovate. We look forward to seeing some examples, which will redress the balance.

In the meantime our few moments of nostalgia reveal the contributions of inspired individuals to typographic art and scholarship. The talents of Wolpe, Zwart and Werkmann set them part from their contemporaries while Will Eisner and Barbara Martin continue to show the individuality, which marks the significant artist. The dedication of one scholar, James Mosley, has created a collection at St Bride’s, which will enable future typographers to contemplate an awareness of contemporary influences with a productive study of the past.

Editorial team

New work Editorial team
Black Sparrow Press Editorial team
Shooting in the dark – Newspaper designs Hugh Tisdale
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Another ten years will see in the new millennium. For the World’s press this will offer a rare opportunity for souvenir editions, nostalgia and self-congratulation. It is in the expression of tradition that the medium finds its most comfortable role. The design of newspaper is trapped in this tradition. Conformity continues because neither producers nor consumers are moved by its visual development. Every title claims to speak for its self yet each craves acceptance, while an institutionalised amateurism pervades the medium…

Hugh Tisdale

Baseline goes to Blackpool Editorial team
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This summer Baseline spent a weekend in Blackpool. Our aim was quite simple: to reflect photographically the wealth of typographic material around the British seaside resort. The fact that typography is being used to lift the emotions of ordinary people and is not just a device for a minority of style-conscious designers is its everlasting strength. We are not judging whether the work is good or bad, but what we are saying is that it’s there and alive…

Editorial team

Berthold Wolpe 1905–1989, an appreciation Victor Clark
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Perhaps dash is a prerequisite for all calligraphers just as much as large lungs are for the athlete. Calligraphy is certainly not work for the hesitant hand but when Margaret Wolpe, recalling her first meeting with Berthold in the mid-1930’s, described him as ‘a dashing young man with irresistible broken English’ she was referring to personal impact not his work.

But in Berthold Wolpe’s case the man and his work shared many qualities. His creative achievements possess great artistic self-assurance and strength but equally never lose a characteristic lightness of touch, a fluency and freedom of style exemplifying seriousness without solemnity. They can almost be said to smile at the viewer as he himself once did with a unique smile once described by Nicholas Barker as, ‘the most beautiful smile in London’. Even his memorial inscriptions express a vitality contrasting with the circumstances of their creation…

Victor Clark

Troublesome typographers (copy mark-up and copy fitting) Phil Jones
Will Eisner Will Eisner
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‘Comics’ or sequential art have been called the world’s most popular art form. Established now for over 50 years they deserve to be taken seriously. Recent developments in graphic novels such as Watchmen have brought a new dimension to the art. One of the ‘inventors’ of the form, and certainly one of its most influential practitioners, is Will Eisner. Lionel Gracey-Whitman interviewed him about his work. We show extracts from Will Eisner’s book Comics and Sequential Art in which he comments on the integration between word, lettering and image. We also show other examples of his work with our own comments on Will Eisner’s typographic style…

Will Eisner

St Bride’s James Mosley
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The St Bride Printing Library is one of the public reference libraries of the City of London, but it is a public library like very few others. Its location, where it opened in 1895, is Fleet Street, or to be more precise, one of the narrow lanes that approach it from the south. At the turn of the 20th century the trade press called the district names like ‘printerdom’, boasting that more printing plants and suppliers of goods and services for the related trades were crowded into this square mile than any other in the world. By the 1890’s, the printer had driven out most of the inhabitants, and the charitable funds that had been left for their benefit were used to set up a foundation that would provide a technical school and sporting facilities for the young printers, the St Bride’s Foundation Institute…

James Mosley

Design and craft – P. Zwart and H. Werkmann Mafalda Spencer
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As we analyse the influence of graphic designers of previous generations on current work, we increasingly recognise that the output of designers is the result of a complicated series of contemporary influences – the background of the designer, the prevailing fashions and styles, the personal financial circumstances, in effect the complete ‘life’.

Mafalda Spencer’s comparison of the work of two Dutch designers allows us to examine the life influences of two men and the result in their work. A fascinating contrast between Piet Zwart ‘the designer’ and Hendrik Werkman ‘the artist’…

Mafalda Spencer

Desert Island type (Ralph Steadman) Ralph Steadman
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In each of Baseline, we invite a well known artist/designer (not necessarily a typographer) to choose his or her favourite pieces of typography to take with them to a desert island. For this issue we asked Ralph Steadman, perhaps the most famous and controversial satirical illustrator working today. Ralph’s works are too numerous to list (so we won’t) and he has won many awards and honours that it might undermine his credibility as a satirist to mention them. He has written and illustrated many books, for adults and children, including I Leonardo and The Big I Am. No one is safe from his illustrative style, not even Baseline…

Ralph Steadman

Book pages/Reviews Editorial team

©1990 Published by Esselte Letraset Ltd.